Latin America & Caribbean

St Kitts and Nevis country profile

Map of St Kitts and Nevis

The former British colony of St Kitts and Nevis is inhabited mostly by the descendants of West African slaves.

Its beaches, scenery and a warm, sunny climate are a great tourist attraction. It is also vulnerable to hurricanes.

The islands of St Kitts - also known as St Christopher - and Nevis have been in an uneasy federation since independence from Britain in 1983, with some politicians in Nevis saying the federal government in St Kitts - home to a majority of the population - had ignored the needs of Nevisians.

But a referendum on secession held in Nevis in 1998 failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to break away.

Tourism, offshore finance and service industries are important sources of income - more so since a centuries-old but loss-making sugar industry was wound down in 2005 with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

FACTS

Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis

Capital: Basseterre

  • Area 269 sq km (104 sq miles)

  • Population 52,000

  • Major language English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 68 years (men), 71 years (women)

  • Currency East Caribbean dollar

LEADERS

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general

Prime Minister: Timothy Harris

Image copyright Getty Images

Timothy Harris took office as prime minister in February 2015, succeeding Denzil Douglas, who governed the twin-island federation for 20 years.

The Team Unity coalition led by Mr Harris won seven of the 11 contested seats in the National Assembly in the general elections. The other four seats went to Douglas' St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party.

Mr Harris is only the third prime minister since the country gained independence from Britain in 1983.

MEDIA

The government operates national television and radio networks.

There are several private radio stations.

The main political parties publish weekly or fortnightly newspapers and the opposition press is free to criticise the government.

TIMELINE

Some key events in the history of St Kitts and Nevis

1493 - Christopher Columbus lands on the islands and names St Kitts after his patron saint, Christopher.

1623 - The British establish their first Caribbean colony on St Kitts.

1626 - The British massacre 2,000 indigenous Caribs.

1628 - The British establish a colony on Nevis.

1783 - France relinquishes claims on St Kitts in the Treaty of Versailles.

1871 - St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla united as a British dependency.

1967 - St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla become an internally self-governing member of the West Indies Associated States with Labour Party leader Robert Bradshaw as prime minister.

1980 - Anguilla granted a constitution and its union with St Kitts and Nevis formally revoked.

1983 - St Kitts and Nevis jointly attain independence within the British Commonwealth with Kennedy Simmonds as prime minister.

1998 - Referendum on Nevis independence fails to achieve the two-thirds majority required for the island to secede.

2005 - Government decides to close the 300-year-old, loss-making sugar industry.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Warner Park ground in the capital Basseterre is an important international cricket venue

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